This is a little rant, and it is what I FEEL so I don’t know if I will be able to SAY it… Recently a favourite artist of mine was outraged because she discovered an image of her sculpture had been used in a computer game. Absolutely I agree that it is polite to ask first and give credit, but payment and a written contract, I’m not so sure. Is the payment for the photograph or all images of that sculpture? Could I buy the sculpture and take my own photos? What about jewelery? Can I post a photograph of myself wearing jewelery without the permission of the creator of that jewelery? What if I was a celebrity selling an image of myself?
I also saw an artist saying they had refused to give permission for their design to be used as a tattoo until now, but would do so now on condition that you pay for it (an unspecified amount), and then modify the design. What then are you paying for?
It seems to me the result of all this ownership is that the game developer either needs to spend time sorting out written contracts thus adding to the cost of the game, or try to gain the skills to make their own graphics, and therefore spend less time actually making games. The net result would be fewer games of poorer quality, costing more. The artist on the other hand needs to spend their time approving contracts and policing their work and so spend less time actually making art, or keep all work locked up in a shed in case someone else might steal or copy it.
It is difficult to draw a line between inspiration and plagiarism, but without building on another’s work art (or anything) cannot progress. Nowadays it is safer to let someone choke to death rather than assist them in case we are sued for damages. Is this reasonable? Or is it the result of excessive greed (why would a person even consider suing someone after they have saved your life)? Just BE NICE*.
Artists need to make a living. If you have made an object to sell and someone steals a photograph to be used in another medium that is not in competition with yours (i.e. no one will buy the game instead of the sculpture), how much have you actually lost? Possibly they would have paid for the photograph, probably they would have simply used something else. Sadly all I can think now when I see her work is “BE NICE”.
I have sketchbooks full of ideas. They flow, they cost me nothing. There will always be remora who are only able to gobble up left over ideas, but consider if they are really harming you**. I would rather spend my energy working on fresh ideas than fighting over scraps***, because that way all everyone ends up with is recycled scraps. Be the shark, be nice.
* If everyone would only BE NICE it would solve most, if not all, of the world’s problems.
** Harm = someone selling direct copies of your work or prints of your paintings so that customers would buy those instead of yours i.e. stealing your income.
*** Did you take the photograph specifically as a resource to sell? Is it something you would have done anyway in order to sell the object in the photograph – in which case the sale of the object should pay for the photo.